Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Fear

That was the title of the post that was forming in my mind.  I was pretty proud of the fact that I had taken the starter out of the riding lawn mower, discovered that the wire to one of the brushes had been routed wrong and was hanging that brush up, so it cost nothing to fix it.  I was going to wax eloquently about how we often tear into a piece of equipment with which we have no prior experience, figure out how it works, and order the parts to fix it.  The point being that we aren’t afraid to take something apart.
But after fixing the starter and re-assembling the mower, the starter worked great, but now the mower doesn’t run well.  And I had failed to tighten the flywheel nut and thus sheared the key – throwing the engine out of time.  I built a new key out of material cut from a broken baler tine, but the engine still won’t run well enough to mow.
And today didn’t go any better.
I had to run to town yesterday, and heard a screech the first time I applied the clutch.  It was apparent that my throw-out bearing is shot.  I went on into town, using the clutch only to start the pickup, and shifting the pickup like a “big rig” - not using the clutch between gears.  I ordered a new throw-out bearing and picked it up this morning.  But when I crawled underneath to put the bearing in, the fear overwhelmed me.
It hasn’t been that many years since I could have changed that bearing with just two wrenches: a ½” wrench to take off the drive shafts, and a ¾”  wrench to take out the four bolts holding the transmission to the bell housing.  But in this newer Dodge pickup the job is far more complex.
First off, I had to jack it up because there isn’t enough clearance to get under the pickup with it flat on the ground.  And now the bolts are all metric, so I can no longer eyeball them and pick up the correct size.  One end of the drive shaft uses torx screws, and the whole bell-housing has to be taken loose because some of the bolt-heads are on the outside and some are on the inside.  And that transmission and transfer case weigh as much as some cars. 
Many times it isn’t practical to take ranch equipment to a mechanic for repair.  It would take far more time and effort to get it to town than to just repair it where it sits.  Add to that the cost of their shop time, in addition our cowboy wages to get it there and back.  So we do a lot of mechanic work here at the ranch.
But here is a job I am afraid to tackle lying on my back in the dirt with what tools we have at the ranch.  We’ll let the professionals handle this one.

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